WISE Women’s Business Center and South Side Innovation Center Awarded Grants to Help Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

Two entrepreneurship programs run by the Martin J. Whitman School of Management received funding in April 2020 to help small businesses affected by COVID-19. The Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Women’s Business Center and South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) both will use acquired funding to offer more resources and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Small Business Association, which partially funds WISE, awarded $420,000 in funding to be used May 1, 2020 through April 30, 2021. The additional funding is intended to support women-owned businesses and their needs directly related to COVID-19. Meghan Florkowski, director of the WISE Women’s Business Center, explains the funding will help them respond to the new challenges their clients are facing.

“We are planning to bring on new staff and highly skilled business counselors to offer targeted counseling and business training for our clients,” she says. “We are also rolling out new online curriculums, as well as one-on-one virtual counseling. As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the work and priorities of our small business owners, we must also change our approach.”

Florkowski adds that the funding will also help the center ensure accessibility for all their resources, and she will also use it to help spread the word about all that WISE offers to women entrepreneurs in Central New York.

The Entrepreneurial Assistance Centers, through New York State’s Empire State Development program awarded the SSIC $100,000 through the end of 2020 to help the center work with entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19, particularly individuals from marginalized populations. The funding will be used to provide technical assistance and additional consultants to help support the hundreds of clients that receive support from the SSIC.

“The response to COVID-19 is a new reality,” explains El-Java Abdul-Qadir ’98 (A&S), G’01 (SoE/A&S), director of the SSIC. “We’re advising our businesses to move and float with the change, but that requires a high level of support throughout our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

He adds that the funding will help the SSIC lead clients to the suppliers, partners and resources that can help them weather the pandemic.

In 2003, the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship — a program of the Whitman School — launched WISE, an entrepreneurial initiative established to train and inspire women interested in launching or growing a business venture. As one of over 100 women business centers across the nation, the objectives of all training and events are to provide information resources, and support for women entrepreneurs, enabling each to successfully advance their businesses to the next stage of profitability and success. Counseling and training services are offered at no cost to the client.

Launched in 2006, the SSIC was created in the Whitman School. SSIC and its resident programs have helped or engaged companies with gross receipts of $31 million. The SSIC is intentionally situated on the South Side of Syracuse, New York, but serves Central New York and surrounding areas to help create and support businesses in other developmental hotspots. The SSIC was named Incubator of the Year in 2012 by the National Business Incubation Association and was recognized as the 2015 Award of Excellence for Outstanding Program Performance and Achievement and Dedication to the Entrepreneurs of New York State at the New York State Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) Annual Conference.

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